Sunday, December 25, 2011
Merry Christmas Catherine Ramsey
As Ms. Santa, I get wish lists and special requests from children all during the holiday season. Over the years, the requests have not all been about receiving toys at Christmas time. Children often share their hopes, dreams, and wishes for others and ask for reassurance that all will be right in the upcoming year.
As Ms. Santa, I am not just a giver of gifts but also an encourager-in-chief. Wishes and dreams shared with me are taken to heart.
Children are not the only ones who share their hopes, dreams and wishes with me; adults make wishes and special requests that are equally as charming and memorable. I have been asked to drop off presents to friends in the hospital, visit an elderly parent at a nursing home, and deliver a meal to a new mommy. The smiles (and sometimes looks of disbelief) on the faces of people I see elicit chuckles and roars of laughter from the folks who sent me. Everyone ends up with a Christmas memory to share over and over for years to come. This year, a small request from Catherine (Cathy) Ramsey created a memory that will stay with me long after the trees and lights have been put away.
Cathy and I are in a small book club together. Other members of the clubs are Diane, Jackie, Joyce, Pat, and Vernon. We began reading books over the summer and now meet once a month over dinner to discuss our views and opinions about our reading selections. Our books have taken us on journeys to the Jim Crow South, the backwoods of Virginia, the inner city of Baltimore, the Middle East, New York City, and Cuba. Our mutual distaste for drama and love of reading and traveling seem to be the common thread that runs among this group of diverse personalities.
At one meeting, Cathy shared a desire to share her love of reading with a group of girls. “It has always been a longing of mine to give girls books to encourage them to read. I want them to learn to love reading. I want to give them books without any strings attached. I want to share my story about how I learned to love reading”, Cathy said wishfully as she continued to talk about her long held dream. “Wouldn’t that be neat to do for Christmas?” she asked the group with determination.
I was not surprised that Cathy, a lifelong educator, wanted to help young girls to learn the joy of reading. Her passion was heard clearly through her soft tones. “This is something I have dreamed about for a long time,” she said as her voice trailed off while still smiling.
As the group dispersed to various corners of town after our book club meeting, Cathy’s smiling face stayed with me. Hearing her enduring wish that will have a profound effect on young readers for years to come left me agitated with excitement and anticipation.
By the time I made it home, Joyce had already texted suggestions for us to consider. Within a few days, a Girl Scouts Troop in the Edgehill area was chosen to receive the books. Naturally, I volunteered to wear my finest Ms. Santa suit. When Cathy asked if I would also read a few stories to the girls, I agreed without hesitation. For reading and Ms. Santa go together like gift wrap and bows.
The group agreed to keep everything sweet and simple. Cookies and cocoa would be served for refreshments. Jackie, Vernon, Diane, and Pat bought books, prizes for games, and Christmas décor to make our time with the girls festive. There was no committee meeting to determine who was going to do what. Everyone simply served with heart and soul.
On Wednesday, December 15, with my favorite Christmas stories and Santa figure in hand along with my freshly pressed suit, I met the rest of the book club members at the center.
Upon entering the room, there was ample proof that this party was being thrown by reading enthusiasts. Books for different ages were stacked front and center. The titles seemed to jump off the covers! The books reflected the personalities in the book club. Books about adventures and travel to other countries were plentiful. Books about instilling confidence in young girls were also in abundance along with timeless Christmas stories. And to my delight, one about bugs was included! These books were chosen to capture the imagination of girls.
At ten before five, Cathy gave us a signal that the girls were on their way. With a quick sweep of the room by club members and a few adjustments to my Christmas cape, everyone was ready. With a dramatic swing of the doors, in walked several Brownies and one tiny Daisy from Troop 5082. The girls were curious about the visitors at their troop meeting. As the girls were greeted by club members with hellos and smiles, Ms. Santa gave out hugs. Little faces filled with curiosity were replaced with oohs and ahs as they touched my red suit.
Our meeting was quickly brought to order when Cathy effortlessly put on her educator’s hat. She had dreamed of this day for a long time, and it was obvious she was ready. She walked to the front of the room and told the smiling faces that she wanted to give them books and had been anticipating meeting them. Cathy shared her love of reading and expressed her desire for them to learn to love reading. After we were introduced, Cathy asked each girl to share a personal tidbit. With some shyness, every girl gave her name and the name of the school she attended.
After the introductions, Cathy cued me to start reading. With all the drama of an overlooked Oscar nod, I gave my best reading performance to date. With animated hands and changes in voice to match the story characters, I read one of my favorite stories to the girls, “I’ve Seen Santa”. As I read, Cathy watched with twinkling eyes. With each turn of the pages of my book, the girls waited eagerly to hear what came next in the story. This was to Cathy’s delight who saw what she wished and expressed several weeks ago come to life.
When the story ended with thunderous applause and laughter from everyone, we could see that the seeds had been planted to enjoy reading. After story time, Cathy escorted the girls to the table to choose books that appealed to them. They looked over the titles carefully and excitingly picked books that fit their personalities. Some even started reading right away. With books in hand, they snacked and discussed their choices with each other. There was endless chatter about reading. However, no smile was bigger or brighter than Cathy’s.
As our time together came to a close, there was no way one could miss Cathy’s glowing face. It was very obvious that Cathy was having one of her very best Christmases. Her sweet and simple request helped create memories for everyone present. Cathy’s sharing her passion for reading was a spark that will ignite and burn brightly for years to come. The girls left with gifts that will not disappear after the tree and lights have been put away. Cathy also left with a gift—a wish fulfilled, and she thanked club members profusely.
As I drove off into the night to my part of town, I repeated several times, “Merry Christmas, Catharine Ramsey. Merry Christmas.”